Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri today picked the India U-19 cricket team as favourite to win the World Cup final against Australia tomorrow.
“I watched them play against Pakistan. They are really good and deserve to be favourites going into the final. I wish them all the best,” the Bengaluru FC captain told reporters on the eve of his side’s Indian Super League fixture against ATK.
Three-time champion India thrashed Pakistan by 203 runs in the U-19 World Cup semifinals for a record sixth final appearance.
Chhetri, who tied the knot with long-time girlfriend Sonam Bhattacharya, daughter of Mohun Bagan legend Subrata Bhattacharya in December last year, has an emotional connect with Kolkata.
“Kolkata has always had a special place in my heart. It’s great to return here not just because I’m now the son-in-law here but because of my association with football here,” Chhetri, who was here for the first time after getting married, said.
Chhetri is not taking the two-time ISL champion ATK lightly even as the Kolkata franchise has slumped to eighth spot in the league table on the back of a hat-trick of losses.
“ATK are a good side and we cannot take them lightly. We cannot be complacent just because we are in top two. We have to put our best foot forward.”
Bengaluru FC, on the other hand, leads the league table and coach Albert Roca wants his side to keep its focus intact with play-offs not very far away.
“In Delhi we thought it was a easy three points but that didn’t happen, So there is no easy game in ISL. Even ATK are not doing well, but they still have some possibilities. And tomorrow, they will try to win and show that there are those possibilities,” Roca said at the press conference.
Bengaluru FC is fresh from a 3-0 win over Transport United in the AFC Cup. It has also won its last two ISL games, but Roca still feels there needs to be more balance in its performance.
“We want to keep a clean sheet. I think that is important for a team. I am still trying to find that balance in the team. We still haven’t won three consecutive games. We still need to push ourselves,” he said.
Having failed to repeat the consistency of the past seasons, ATK is currently 10 points adrift of the top four places with just six games left.
But its interim coach, Ashley Westwood believes his side still has a “mathematical chance” of making it to playoffs.
“It is still a mathematical possibility. If we win 6 out of 6, I’m sure we’ll be close. So there is definitely motivation in the team. When you are a professional, you have to keep playing and keeping winning points for your team.
“You have a duty towards your clubs and your fans. So tomorrow, we will fire on all cylinder and try to get all three points,” Westwood signed off.
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